“Really, Maralyn?” I heard a voice inside me saying, “Turkey, Nice, US political campaigns, BLM (and that’s just scratching the surface of the challenges facing in our world!) and you’re going to talk about going to the beach?!” Right behind that came a second voice. This one echoed back to me Jack Gilbert’s words We must have the stubbornness to accept our gladness in the ruthless furnace of this world.” And here’s how that powerful poem, A Brief for the Defence, ends:
To hear the faint sound of oars in the silence as a rowboat
comes slowly out and then goes back is truly worth
all the years of sorrow that are to come.

It was this kind of respite that the part of me that was feeling so heavy last month was longing for, and I’m thankful to have had the resources to co-create this time with my friend. I was staying at her home that week – taking time for integration of Sandra Kim’s wonderful program Compassionate Activism. In the middle of that week of chatting and reading, eating and napping my friend drove me to the beach. We were there for a short, and so even more precious, 23 hours.

Almost there!

I could feel my excitement and anticipation rising as we got closer. The air felt different, and even though my excitement was rising, time seemed to slow down. In retrospect I realized even though the pace of life at the beach is slower, the other thing that was happening for me was a hightening of all my senses.

Though I’d never been to this beach, after having lived in Barbados the first 18 years of my life with the beach there a 7 minute walk from our home, every part of me was recalling and reaching for what I knew was coming!

As soon as we checked in and got to our room, we changed and headed out to the beach. I was in such a hurry that I didn’t take the care I know I need with applying sunscreen, and so ended up with a reminder of the potency of the sun I can still, weeks later, see!

Stepping off the boardwalk and onto the beach – noticing the soft sand squishing up between my toes, hearing the sound of the waves gently breaking, breathing in the salt air, feeling the breeze cooling the warmth of the sun on my skin – my whole being softened. AND, I could feel I needed time on my own to savour it all.

Thankful to be with a good friend who immediately understood what I was asking and was happy to sit and soak up the sun while I walked, I took off down the beach. As I strolled along I gave myself free rein – sometimes splashing in the surf, other times walking at the water’s edge, or in the dry sand.

Though there were others around, it was almost as if I was in a bubble – a quiet world of my own. Thoughts and feelings floated through me – undirected and without agenda. At times, tears flowed as freely. Relief and release. Settling and expansion.

35 seconds at the beach ...
35 peaceful seconds at the beach …

After about 45 minutes it felt like time to pause. For about 15 minutes I sat facing the sea, and breathed, giving myself an even more still space of presence. It was here I recorded this 35 second video. I hope you feel yourself, as I did, dropping into that space of quiet reflection.

And then there was the water. Not quite as blue as the Caribbean Sea, but surprisingly just as warm, and after the walk back to where my friend was waiting for me, very inviting! Feeling surrounded and supported by that warm, salty water was a whole other layer of nurturing.A walk in theother direction, this time in the pleasant company of my friend, followed later that evening with the delight of my taste buds and belly as we ate a delicious dinner in the restaurant overlooking the beach set us up for an early night’s rest.

I happily set my alarm to wake up and head back to the beach in time to watch the sunrise.

Sunrise next morning …

It was breathtaking to see that extraordinary ball of fire emerge on the horizon. A powerful reminder of something that’s easy to lose track of in the midst of ourmore chaotic day-to-day lives – the count-on-able pattern of the cycles and sufficiency that make our lives possible, and mark our days.

After breakfast and one last swim later that morning, we were on our way back to my friend’s home. As I’ve reflected on these 23 hours at the beach I’ve been struck by the potency of the visceral sense of my memories. What is it that made this 23 hours so impactful?

Of course the beauty of the place and the absence of any external demands made it easy to be there, but there were two other things. I knew in advance that our time was very limited, and that knowing heightened my attentiveness. I don’t know if this is so for you, but I don’t think I’d have been so attuned if we’d been there for a week. Here, I was exquisitely aware of all my senses; powerfully present and savouring each moment. I hope that my sharing this experience has connected you with the felt sense of delight in you.

I often talk about expanding our capacity for presence. Usually this is in relation to presence in challenging circumstances, and certainly – especially these days –  that’s a crucial capacity. But being able in the midst of “the ruthless furnace of this world” to intentionally carve out time – perhaps even shorter and closer to home than these 23 hours were – where we savour the incredible gift of our aliveness is equally important in building our capacity to be present to any times of “sorrow that are to come”.

Simple pleasures like savouring a delicious piece of chocolate, sitting on the grass and listening to a free concert on a summer evening, exploring delicious ideas in conversation with a friend are some of my favourites. And part of what makes our world so incredible is the infinite variety of things that bring us delight.

I’d love to hear what sparks your sense of aliveness! How do you nurture it in your life? Without turning away from the reality of the challenges in our lives and world, in these times where we’re inundated with information about these challenges, what do you do to remind yourself that there’s more to life than this? For some of us who’ve been so committed to not turning away from the hard things, practice in attending to delight can feel strange. If you feel a sense of resonance with any of this, or feel touched or intrigued with these ideas, I’d love to explore them with you, so please reach out!

Nurturing juicy co-creative partnerships
…with ourselves, others & life!